Archive for the ‘Biology’ Category

Academic Animal Dissection, FY!

October 17, 2011

This morning I saw one of my Facebook Friends showing off a t-shirt that really annoyed me:

Image shows a cartoon frog with the words “cut class, not frogs!” and “Don’t dissect.” “peta2”

Of course it’s a PETA shirt, which is one mark against it, but it’s the joyous anti-intellectualism of the message that first slapped me in the face. The cutesy message about cutting class makes me want to take a shower. Remember this summer’s marketing disaster for  JCPenny –  the “I’m too pretty to do my homework so my brother has to do it for me” t-shirt? Same sort of thing, but more gender-inclusive; Everyone can be anti-learning with this shirt! 

I’m making a lot of assumptions in these next couple of sentences, but they’ve held true in my experience. Don’t skip class – you miss out on interesting, important information. I’ve found that when I skipped classes, it was harder to grasp the big picture, and so the subject seemed more out of my grasp. Once this downward spiral starts, it’s easy to just pretend that the material is boring or irrelevant because you’re missing an entire hour’s worth (at least) of facts or information! Also, whatever you’ve missed is probably going to be on the test, and you’ll feel a lot less stressed and like more of a superstar if you do well on the test…you know, rather than failing it.

Second – do dissections! It’s not gross, it’s not weird, it’s cool as hell! You are looking at the internal workings of the machinery that drives a living being! The National Science Teacher’s Association supports animal dissection and believes that it can help students develop skills of observation and comparison, discover the shared and unique structures and processes of specific organisms, and develop a greater appreciation for the complexity of life.

The wet lab portions of my high-school and college A&P classes were amazing! Seeing how fine the nerves were, how intricate the cardiovascular system, with all of the tubes going into and out of the heart and through the lungs, and understanding how long the small and large intestines really were as they moved through my gloved hands for a length of time that seemed to go on forever – these experiences fueled my interest in anatomy and inspired me to ask questions in ways that I doubt a computer program would have. So much of what we do these days is digital, and I suspect performing a necropsy on a computer screen would be just another game for me.

So, I was feeling a little grumpy about the “cut class, not frogs” shirt. But this morning on Twitter I found a perfect way to raise my spirits. A teacher at Gaffney High School in Gaffney, South Carolina is requesting donations to help fund dissections in her classroom:

My Anatomy and Physiology students attend a high poverty school that has limited resources and monies available. They are juniors or seniors who have identified their career path to be in the health science field. Some have set goals to be lab technicians while others strive for their doctorates. All of them want to learn and are interested in the structure and function of the human body. We have an enormous amount of fun learning and utilizing the limited resources we have.

My Project: Future nurses, health care professionals, and doctors will be inspired to pursue their dreams by having hands on experience with preserved specimen dissections. Dissection tool kits, virtual dissection tutorials, and basic specimens of sheep eyes, hearts, and brains will create a curiosity of the structure and function of the human body that will last a lifetime.

Science is a difficult and intimidating subject to many teenagers. My goal is to remove these obstacles by providing lessons that motivate my students to learn and strive for a college degree. Hands on activities and labs are the pathway to see my students excel not only in science, but also in their life.

If you can spare $5 (or a few $5!) and you’re feeling sentimental about your old frog dissection days, why not stop by her website and help out? At the time of this posting, Mrs. Greene is only $109 away from meeting her goal.

Knit Frog Dissection

April 27, 2011

This is almost as cool as the lego dissection!

From Etsy:

Wow your scientist friends and colleagues with the coolness of this piece of knitted art. The frog is hand knit from a silk/wool blend, and his little innards were needle-felted by hand out of 100% wool. He comes pinned into his black wood 8 x 10 inch frame, but he is not glued down, so you can take him out and cuddle him if you wish.

Designed and hand knitted by me ~ The Crafty Hedgehog
Copyright 2007 Emily Stoneking

This little guy was only $7.50! Sadly, it was sold out. But then, why wouldn’t it be?
Seen on Twitter via CaptainSkellet

Biodorks…We’re multiplying.

December 12, 2010

Look – there’s another biodork!  Only she’s BioDork, so you don’t get us confused.

I found this BioDork blog on tumblr because I have a Google Alert set for “biodork”.  One day, there she was – thanks Google Alerts!  She’s a biology student and her blog is brand new, but already she’s got some really cool links to science new stories, science art, video and quotes.

Of her recent links, I think one of my favorites is this carbon cycle shirt.  Do want!


Do Want!

November 21, 2010

This is so fantastic that I could weep for joy.

MocOlympics Round 6 Dave Kaleta vs Giovanni Seynhaeve

There are more pictures of the froggie dissection at mocpages.  It’s just fabulous.

Biology Pareidolia

October 7, 2010

Forget Mary in the grilled cheese sandwich Jesus in an MRI scan; my officemate and I saw a seriously spooky image today.  We both saw something, but we can’t agree on what exactly we saw.  

What do you think: Does this sunlight reflected off of a glossy-covered industry journal onto the ceiling looks more like a golgi apparatus or an endoplasmic reticulum?





Biology Funs!

May 30, 2010

It’s such an icky disease.  Can somebody just make it go away, please?

A cure for a disease that can up to 90% of infected individuals?  A cure for a disease that makes people bleed out of every orifice in their body and can kill them 2-21 days after the onset of symptoms?  I mean sure, the potential Ebolavirus cure has only been demonstrated in animal models, and there’s no real market for an Ebolavirus vaccine (which doesn’t offer a lot of financial payoff for development by private companies), but…

Oh wait, I’m sorry, did you say EBOLA CURE?   That’s wicked cool biology!

From a report in the Vancouver Sun by Chad Skelton:

At a high-security military lab at Fort Detrick, Md., [Dr. Thomas] Geisbert infected several rhesus monkeys with a high dose of the Zaire strain of Ebola, one of the deadliest and fastest-replicating forms of the virus.  Then, over the next seven days, four monkeys were given a single daily injection of the drug…by Day 10 of the study, the two “control monkeys” who hadn’t been given the drug were already dead, and the four treated monkeys were perfectly fine.  Among a second test group, given only four injections, two of three monkeys survived.

Wow!  I won’t bore you with all of the molecular biology, but if you’re interested, Wikipedia has a decent mid-level explanation of Ebola’s pathogenesis, transmission, signs and symptoms, treatment, prognosis, etc.

The original article by Dr. Geisbert can be found at under the very user-friendly title Postexposure protection of non-human primates against a lethal Ebola virus challenge with RNA interference: a proof-of-concept study.  Or just go to and search for “Ebola”.  You have to sign up for a free registration, but it’s quick and they don’t ask for a lot of personal info.  It’s worth muddling through the medical-ese if you want to know about the study methods, or about the science driving the potential cure.  I mean, who doesn’t want to read about small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) and stable nucleic acid-lipid particles (SNALPs).  You know you do, you big nerd!

Right now it sounds like the most important reason for having an Ebola cure would be in the case of a biological attack using the virus.  Because naturally-occuring Ebola is rare, there aren’t any immediately apparent financial incentives for a private development company to invest in the necessary R&D and clinical studies.  The funding for Geisbert’s study comes from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, a “Combat Support Agency for countering weapons of mass destruction” run out of the US Department of Defense.


On to a couple of more local and more macro biology funs:

Pretty spider web found outdoors in Chaska, MN:


My friend found this skull in the alley behind her South Minneapolis home.  Is it a bird – crow or raven?  The bone looks porous like bird bones and the jaw portion has got to be some sort of beak, wouldn’t you think?  We do have a lot of big black birds in this area…